With the decentralization of media and the decrease in technology costs for video and other technologies, I've long believed in the content imperative. That is, for most companies, it's no longer enough to just sell stuff at a great price. You also have to create content that gives context and meaning to your products.
For example, you can't just sell home improvement tools and materials. You have to create sites with how-to articles and videos like Lowe's Creative Ideas Web site.
However, with the rise of social media, there's a new imperative: the conversation imperative. It's not enough to sell products and talk at your customers. You have to foster a dialogue with your customers, allowing them to review products and share their advice and opinions with other customers.
For instance, you can't just sell pet food and supplies. You have to create a pet community with articles, forums, member profiles and other content, as PetSmart has done with their Pets.com site.
Email marketing has a vital role to play in fulfilling the conversation imperative. Your email program can be used to drive subscribers to:
>For example, Bluefly used their email program to promote coverage of Fashion Week on their blog and to spark conversations about which red carpet fashions they liked during the Oscars. J&R promotes their blog and presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr in their emails. And REI and NikeStore recently added "share with your network" (SWYN) links to their emails to allow subscribers to share their emails with friends more easily.
All marketers should be striving to spark "convers@ions" -- that is, using email to create conversations that lead to conversions.
Keeping consumers engaged with your brand when they're not in the market for your products is particularly important at the moment because of the state of the economy. Consumers are struggling and are much more likely to tune you out or unsubscribe if you're hammering them with "buy now" messaging and nothing else. A more engaging, softer sell may lead to better retention and ultimately stronger conversions over time.
The present environment is further complicated by the fact that email frequency continues to rise. Over the past four weeks, retail email volume is up more than 14% year-over-year. Higher volumes raise the bar for relevance -- and when you're not in the market, promotional messages just aren't very relevant.
In times like these, retailers that aren't increasing their conversational messaging to maintain engagement will likely end up at a competitive disadvantage when the recession ends.
Is your company trying to spark convers@ions?